When you note personal or spiritual growth in your life, there can be a tendency to disparage your past, to look down on a self that you might now regard as wrong or naive or simply juvenile.
I’ve been listening to tracks stored in the dusty, cobwebbed corners of my iPod lately. Songs I haven’t heard in years are tumbling out, one after another. There’s a lot of 77s, Bob Dylan, Bill Mallonee, Tom Petty, and Daniel Amos. Sometimes the songs still work for me. Love the Byrds! Other times not. Did I really like Al Green that much?
Earlier today I listened to tracks from Rush that made a lot of sense to a younger, more rebellious Joel. I shrugged through at least a few of them this go round, basically unimpressed.
Embarrassed by our journey
I heard other bands whose songwriting I today find insufferably childish. I won’t name any names for fear of offending, but you have plenty of your own examples I’m sure. I used to like that? Groan.
But don’t groan too much. Remembering a younger you can serve as interesting commentary on your personal growth, but don’t let it double as an indictment on where you’ve come from — especially when it comes to spiritual matters. You are Today’s You because of Yesterday’s You, and nowhere is this truer than in matters of the heart.
Instead of the iPod look at the bookshelf — the novels, memoirs, and spiritual books in particular. Pull down some volumes and read your marginalia. With some ideas we can still identify after years and years. Others? Not so much. Now cringe if you need to, but those ideas meant something important enough then to underline, to highlight, and to scribble a note or two.
You’ve come a long way since that moment, but you wouldn’t be where you are today without that moment.
Embracing our journey
None of us is today where we were last week, and the more we appreciate and like our current place, the easier it is to look down upon where we’ve come from.
I don’t hold all the beliefs with which I grew up. I discount certain points of doctrine today that I proudly affirmed a decade ago. But I’m glad even for the theological and spiritual approaches with which I now differ. Even if those ideas were erroneous, they are part of my development. I’m not me without them.
If I drive to Sacramento, California, from Eugene, Oregon, I shouldn’t despise the fact that I spent a moment in Medford, Yreka, and Redding. They are on the way. Unlike points on a map, our past positions may not be morally neutral, but it does no good to despise those except the sinful — and even then we should consider being merciful to what Christ has shown mercy.
Our spiritual journeys may have many twists and turns, but God sets the course and guides us along the way. Trust him enough to appreciate where he’s taken you.